Photo: Intelligent HQ retrieved
When she picks up the phone, she’s already in tears.
“Hey,” I go, and she can’t even say hello.
It’s heartbreaking. There are key moments in your relationship with a girlfriend, like meeting her parents, or the first time you realize she can lie. This, seeing her cry (or rather hearing) is something I knew could come, but didn’t expect so soon. Two weeks into the relationship, and it’s done. Such a promising start, to die in the cradle.
“Before you say anything,” I say, “I need you to know I’m always going to love you. I understand you need to go, and I want you to know I don’t blame you. It’s okay.”
“It’s not okay,” she cuts my lie just like that.
I’m lying in my bed, holding my phone, staring at the cover of Las aventuras del Capitán Alatriste without really seeing it. We’re ten hours apart, but the communication is clear. For the first time maybe ever, there’s no noise in Venezuelan cellphone lines and all it’s doing is making her sobs more palpable. Like the Monkey’s Paw tale: one day you’ll get your wish, and you’ll regret asking for it.
The girl breaking up with me is accustomed to getting her paycheck, turn most of it to pesos, and cross the border to Colombia to buy groceries and stuff, weekly.
“I knew it was a mistake to get involved with you when all my migration papers were done, but I had to try, and I really made the effort. But I just can’t anymore, and it’s not you. It’s this… fucking country, eating us.”
Everything she’s saying, I already know. The story goes like this: guy meets girl on the internet, and they become friends. They don’t meet in person, because guy is from Caracas and girl is from Táchira, really far away, but this is fine because life is going on and they both have ongoing plans and projects. After four years of this, girl tells guy she’s finally moving away, to Chile; the country is all fucked up, she thinks, and Tachira is taking a beating like no other place in Venezuela (this was before the Zulian Apocalypse). A year ago, she applied for the Chilean democratic visa, and her application was approved.
“So, anyway, I’m going to spend a bunch of days in Caracas,” she tells guy, “wanna meet?”
Guy would certainly like to meet. Four days later, they’re a couple.
It takes me half an hour to learn what happened in her job that finally broke her. She’s the type of person who really takes pride in what she does, and takes her duty seriously so when she tells me the story, something I won’t replicate here, all I can do is shrug. This is after the national infrastructure collapsed and we had a national blackout so bad, that it was a month ago and there are still regions with no power. In Tachira, bolivars are for fools, everything is done in dollars or Colombian pesos. The girl breaking up with me is accustomed to getting her paycheck, turn most of it to pesos, and cross the border to Colombia to buy groceries and stuff, weekly. She says it’s not so much about her as it is about her parents, a couple of elderly fellows who still want to fight the good fight but, come on, they’re old folks. When your parents reach that age, you want them to rest and relax, and not worry about fucking chavismo closing the border and them going without food and medicines as, by the way, they did.
There is a basic reality of Venezuela: Chavismo, the political group with the capacity to enact significant policies, cares first and foremost about itself and its power. It will do what it must to sustain the status quo and if the suffering of their citizens’ registers in their universe, it doesn’t elicit enough worry to make them react. Meanwhile, Venezuelans die.
So, back to our sad love story, this girl and I agreed to give it a go and she’d make the sacrifice of turning her back on her visa and moving to Caracas, or that was the plan. Now she’s hellbent on going away, because “It’s just not going to change, not now. Look at where we are. Everything stalled again and if I’m quitting my job, as I need to, I’m gonna start burning my savings. I have no other backup plan, Vic, my only choice is to go. To move away from Venezuela.”
I don’t refute it. I just listen.
“And you know what? I need normalcy. Yes, things in Caracas are better than in the rest of the nation, but you still can’t go out without worrying about robbers. You can’t buy stuff. You’re getting blackouts and no water, and you all are adapting to it.”
There is a basic reality of Venezuela: Chavismo, the political group with the capacity to enact significant policies, cares first and foremost about itself and its power.
There’s a tiny, electronic whirl on the sound, the digital carpet beneath this everlasting frustration.
“I need to do this. You have your career and your things, you’ve started to build something, but I don’t have any of that. I don’t even have a job now. I need to move away and see this thing through.”
What can you say to something like that?
Yes, I wanna be selfish, tell her to let me handle this. I’m gonna make it alright, we’re gonna find you a job and with that comes money and, yes, you’re gonna be screwed living in Venezuela, but considerably less screwed than before.
But is that true anymore?
I went through two weeks of blackout, where it was a survival story out of The Walking Dead. Water just came back today, as I write these words. I haven’t met with my band, and we’re not playing shows because people can’t be punk when they’re worried about literally staying alive. These blackouts can happen again at any time, and who knows how long they will last. But suppose it ain’t so, let’s suppose everything is fine and dandy, or at least as dandy as it was before March 7th; the urgency in her voice, much more than her words, is telling me that I have no battle to fight here. This is not a trial, I’m just hearing the verdict and although you can find solace in the notion that, while it lasted, it was it, you can’t help but grieve about dreams that now will never bloom. This is not a time for a scene or recrimination. Embrace Nietzsche: “Love and life must be left the same way: with more gratitude than pain.”
It’s me who sighs this time. One of the most exceptional people I’ve met once told me I have a thing for unreachable women (and she should know, being the Queen of the Unreachables herself), and if such is the case, then what, I have to thank chavismo for putting this girl even farther from where she was? Venezuela used to be a place where, if you had certain privileges, like a satisfying career, you could hold on and face the decay with optimism. But today I got out of bed, looked out the window, and realized we’re being left alone here. All the joy in life comes from family and friends, and Hugo Chávez’s project is corrupting even that. Just today, we at the Caracas Chronicles team found out that one of the little girls from Fundanica, the one who wanted to be an actress, died. It’s a fucking constant cavalcade of bad news that you think you can handle because, fuck it, at least you have “perks,” but chavismo has ways to erode you.
I recently read “We really have only two options staying in Venezuela: dying or leaving.”
The weight of those words is finally getting to me.